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Dirty air blame on transport

 Emissions of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 in Delhi have increased by 11.5% over the past four years, according to a GIS-based inventory prepared by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), an autonomous body under the ministry of earth sciences. The transport sector appears to be the worst culprit as it's the biggest contributor to this jump followed by manufacturing industries and power plants. After a World Health Organization urban air quality database released early this month said Delhi has the highest PM2.5 levels among 1,600 global cities, IITM scientists had claimed that WHO has 'overestimated' Delhi's pollution problem.


IITM scientists told TOI that they are sticking to their stand on the WHO data being incorrect but said their emission inventory shows air pollution levels in Delhi had gone up substantially, particularly due to emissions from the transport sector. While transport emissions-especially from diesel cars and vehicles that use adulterated fuel-rose by a whopping 30% in the last four years, industrial emissions increased by just 5.7% during the same time. "Surprisingly, some sectors did not record much increase.


In fact, contribution from burning of bio-fuels like wood and dung, decreased marginally. PM2.5 emissions from the power sector increased only by 3.14%," Gufran Beig, chief project scientist at System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), IITM, said. In 2013, the transport sector was responsible for 38% of the PM2.5 emissions in Delhi compared to 26% from 'others'-paved and unpaved roads, construction activities, brick kilns and wind-blown dust. "This is an interesting finding as we usually assume that these sectors can't contribute much. But in Delhi, dust from these activities is playing a huge role," added Beig.


Strangely, industries contributed to about 16% of emissions and the power sector only 3%. The transport sector is contributing majorly to black carbon (pollution caused due to incomplete combustion of fossil fuels)-a leading contributor of climate change. About 50% of black carbon emissions were from the transport sector compared to 38% from the industrial sector, in 2013. Beig said that the inventory can be used to understand which sectors need to be addressed but maintained that WHO's assessment of Delhi's air pollution was grossly incorrect. "Air quality is a problem in Delhi. We have reported that earlier, too.


The issue is not about whose air quality is worse, Beijing's or ours. We are concerned about India's representation by an international body like WHO. It has put out misleading information about us," he said, explaining Delhi's annual PM2.5 average was high but not what WHO has estimated.

Times of India, Delhi, Tuesday 21th May 2014